BHS boys’ team battling health issues
While most high school basketball coaches are excited about beginning their season this week or next, Eric Toot is a bit apprehensive about starting Tuesday night.
One major reason — health of his players.
Toot’s Baldwin High School boys’ basketball team has been battling sickness since the season began Nov. 17. Toot knows his team will take the court when the games begin Tuesday. He just isn’t sure he will have healthy enough players to play for him.
“It’s good to be back out on the court, but we are really struggling with our health right now,” Toot said. “We’ve got kids that are sick throughout the entire program. They are doing their best to show up and tough it out, but it gets to a point where they are doing more harm to themselves than good. So we’re really struggling with that. We haven’t had our whole team together for a practice yet this season.”
A year ago, the boys’ basketball team had problems with conditioning early in the season. However, that was because of the BHS football team still playing in the Class 4A playoffs. That hasn’t been the problem this year, but conditioning is a factor since the players’ health has been affecting the practices.
“We’re trying to get them in shape,” Toot said. “They’re trying their hardest to get through conditioning as they’re coughing and sneezing. We always start that way and we’ll build as we go.”
Senior Clad Kueffer agreed with his coach about the difficulty of the early season conditioning, but said it’s what the team has to do to succeed.
“It’s pretty tough so far, but we’re trying to get better every day,” Kueffer said. “The coaches are running us pretty hard, but we need it.”
However, both coach and player agree the Bulldogs have the potential to have a successful season. It’s going to be a matter of time before they begin to look like the team they hope to be.
“I’m excited to coach this team,” Toot said. “I think once we get healthy and injury free, we have a chance to be very good this year, as most people know. We’ve just got to fight through this early part and hopefully get this sickness out of the way.”
One addition that will help Baldwin this year will be junior Zach Wright, a former Wellsville player. Since he transferred to Baldwin, Wright won’t be available to play for the Bulldogs when they take on the Eagles on Dec. 16. His first game will come against Paola on Jan. 16.
“I’m really excited about this season,” Kueffer said. “We have a great opportunity to do some special things this year. In practice, we see how good we can really be. We’re really not going to be as good as we can until January, when he can play. We’re excited when he does get to play.”
Wright will join a group of players who helped the Bulldogs to a 17-5 season a year ago. That season ended on a buzzer beater three-pointer in the semifinal round of the sub-state tournament.
A trio of Bulldogs are back who started on that team. They are senior Brandon Tommer, sophomore Justin Vander Tuig and Kueffer. Also contributing significant minutes a year ago were seniors Sam Beecher and Logan Schiller. BHS will also be helped by Chris Hecker, a foreign exchange student from Germany.
“We have a great group of core guys,” Toot said. “There is no reason for us not to have a good season. That should be our goal. If we come out and battle, we should be in every game we play. It just depends if we’ll come out and make the necessary sacrifices every day to be a great team.”
Baldwin will benefit from hosting a pair of tournaments this year. The first will take place next week. The Bulldog-Wildcat Classic begins Tuesday and will finish up Dec. 12-13. The other teams participating are Anderson County, Burlington and Louisburg.
“It’s really nice, because we usually play our best games at home,” Kueffer said. “We have a lot of home games this season, so that will be really nice for us.”
The Bulldogs will also host the annual Baldwin Invitational Tournament in January. They will play 14 of their 20 regular season games at home this season.
“Having our preseason tournament at home has given us three more home games,” Toot said. “We always have the BIT. It will be a great advantage to have two tournaments at home. Hopefully, we can defend our home court this year and bring a lot of excitement to Baldwin.”
The BHS boys will play at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Baldwin Junior High School gymnasium.
“We definitely need to play,” Toot said. “Our last couple of practices have been kind of rough. The kids are a little bit tired of playing against each other.”